There’s an important opportunity available to us at the point when we regain our awareness. We can choose not only what we do (taking our awareness to the breath), but how we do it.
When we realize that we’ve been distracted there can be a strong temptation to beat ourselves up. Of course if we do that then we’re going straight back into an uncontrolled, unaware state of distractedness — we undermine ourselves or get annoyed.
A more creative response is that we bring our awareness back to the breath with as much kindness, and patience, and gentleness as we can. Instead of giving yourself a hard time about having been distracted you can even congratulate yourself on having regained your awareness. This is a very important practice; whenever you realize that you’ve been distracted, focus instead on the fact that you’ve regained your awareness and allow yourself to feel a sense of pride and joy at that fact. You can even imagine yourself punching your fist in the air in a gesture of victory.
When you’re taking your awareness back to the breath, bear in mind that your mind is a miraculous and precious thing. Carry your awareness back to the breath in the same way as you would pick up a young kitten in order to return it to its mother. Try and be that gentle and that kind. Your mind has a natural tendency to wander, just like a young, inquisitive animal. So there’s no point in being harsh with yourself.
The meditation practice we’ll be learning after we’ve practiced the Mindfulness of breathing for a few weeks is called the metta bhavana, and it’s all about bringing more of those qualities of kindness and appreciation into our lives.